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To briefly explain, these are not what I consider the “best” films of the year. This is my list of films that I call my favorite. I do think several of these films are among the best of the year, but the list is incredibly biased. That said, here are my 10 favorite films of 2011.
10. Take Shelter
Take Shelter is quite a trip of a film. I always enjoy a good mind-f*** of a film. What I loved about Take Shelter was that it addresses the common problems most “possible schizophrenic” movies have. The main character’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and almost immediately the main character questions his sanity. Through out the whole film I was wondering whether or not he is crazy or if his visions of a coming apocalypse were real. Another possible problem these films face is having a satisfying ending. The build up can be immaculate, but if the pay off isn’t enough, the film can feel like a waste of time. Luckily, Take Shelter delivers fantastically.
I know one of my friends really did not like this film. I can’t blame him. While I love this film quite a bit, I can see its flaws and criticize it accordingly. However, I just enjoyed the story and the tone and style of the film so much that I was able to overlook its shortcomings. Neil Burger was able to pull together this crazy visual style that’s unique, yet feels somewhat reminiscent of Fight Club in a weird way. Tonal shifts and change of situations throughout the movie trigger alterations in the color pallet and even the overall graininess of the film. The visuals aren’t just stylish for the sake of style, it compliments the story’s progression and brings a flavor to the film that I really haven’t seen anywhere else.
I took my mother to see this in theatres. I’ll wait and let that sink in for a second…
Now that you have that, we both loved it. I ended up buying it for her for Mother’s Day and we’ve watched it several times since then. Probably the funniest film in the past couple years, Bridesmaids was a breath of fresh air. Finally, there’s a comedy with all female leads that’s not just for women. And it’s actually a high quality film, unlike the Sex and the City movies.
The script is brilliant and the movie doesn’t fill itself with actresses who look fake. Every character looks like a real person. Along with that, this movie has women doing things that normally are reserved for males in gross-out, raunchy comedies. The infamous bathroom scene is one of the most disgusting gross-out gags of the year.
Above that, the movie focuses on the characters and their individual arcs. While some are most static than others, the main relationships in the film change drastically through the film and it really makes you care.
A comedy about cancer… Sounds like risky subject matter. It definitely is. This movie could have been offensive if not handled with the right amount of care. Luckily the writer based the script on his real-life experiences with cancer and the director has a great sense of character to make this film work.
Having been affected by cancer in my life, my grandmother died of cancer, I found the way they handled the whole cancer angle of the film with incredible sensitivity. It actually reminded me of what my mother had to go through when her mom was dying. I wasn’t always there to experience what she did, but watching this film made me feel closer to her experiences.
The film strikes a great balance of drama and comedy without diluting either. It’s very genuine and the emotion in the film feels organic. There is one character that I do feel is more of a caricature than anything else, but I can forgive the film for that because every other character, main and supporting, feels real. And these characters’ interactions that lead to great moments. But what I love about the film is the pure emotion that the film is able to deliver. This movie actually got me choked up, and not a whole lot of movies can do that.
Two things about Rango that I love are that it didn’t need 3D to “enhance” the experience and it doesn’t cut corners on the details. I’m pretty sure this is the only animated film this year that was not in 3D, and it didn’t need it. I don’t think the film would have benefited from 3D. And with other animated film companies, Pixar is guilty of this from time to time as well, is they don’t always put forth the full effort on the minor details. Every pixel of every frame of this film was meticulously crafted to perfection. This is, by far, the best looking computer animated film that I have ever seen. The scene when Rango first enters the cantina was astonishing. Every hair, scratch, scrape, scab, sweat, scale of every creature, even if they only appeared for a second, looked amazing. I’ve never seen that amount of detail before. While it’s incredibly detailed, it feels very raw. These characters are not pretty characters. The movie has a very dirty look that fits the tone and story of the film. Speaking of, it’s a great story. It’s a true western in every sense of the genre. At its core, it’s about someone who’s trying to find purpose in life. It’s simple, but effective. Even if you don’t like the story, the film’s worth watching just for the visuals.
5. Midnight In Paris
For a movie that makes me want to write, I can’t really find too much to say aboutMidnight in Paris. It’s kind of hard to describe why this movie is so good, but it’s a movie that really triggers your emotions. It’s incredibly romantic without actually being a love story between two characters. It’s more of a love story between a man and a place that he wants to be. I can’t really get any more specific, because I feel if I say any more about the story it’ll take away from the experience. It’s just a great, feel-good movie. It made me happy watching it and when it was over I felt energized and uplifted.
4. 13 Assassins
Takashi Miike is brilliant in his insanity. Or is it he’s insane in his brilliance? Either way, 13 Assassins will probably go down as his masterpiece. A truly unconventional filmmaker goes traditional – for the most part – in this period samurai film that is probably the most violent film to come out in years. I almost feel bad for calling it that, because that undermines how close to perfect every other aspect of the film is. The film uses the first hour to build up to a 45-minute wall of set-pieces where Miike just rattles every sense that you have. Unlike Transformers 3, where it similarly ended in a extremely long series of set-pieces, 13 Assassins does a fantastic job of setting up the characters and situation to make you actually care about what’s going on instead of admiring the view. And, unlike Michael Bay, Miike knows how to shoot and edit the action so there’s a sense of progress. And, unlike Transformers 3, you care about the characters. It sets up probably the worst, most despicable villain in a movie, and makes you want him to die a horrible death. And when the resolution comes, it’s incredibly satisfying. The film also tackles some traditional Japanese culture questions such as honor and duty. I could go on all day about this movie, just go watch it.
3. Attack The Block
There’s just a lot of good to say about this film. I keep that hearing many were disappointed by this film because “Alien Invasion” films usually have a lot of high-budget spectacle to them. But this movie isn’t that. This is a much more personal film and more of a throwback to what made ‘80s sci-fi horror so great. But unlike a lot of films that are “throwbacks” or “homage” to the films that inspired them, this film makes a modern-day version of it. The soundtrack is amazing and the monsters are all practically done. That means the monsters are not CGI, they’re people in suits, animatronics, and puppets. They were darkened in post-production to give them a pure black look, but they’re actually there with the actors. Practicality is something that is lost with most films now. Add that to a brilliant script, great acting, solid directing, air-tight editing, and, once again, a kick-ass soundtrack, and you get one of the coolest and most fun films of the year.
This was really close to making my top spot. This is the best film of the year, one of the best of the past several years. This is the closest thing to a perfect film that I’ve seen since The Shawshank Redemption. Yet, like Shawshank, It’s not my favorite (Pulp Fiction was my favorite of that year and that decade.)
Drive is an exercise of subtlety. The film is just oozing with style, yet the director shows so much restraint. Every frame of this film feels necessary, not over done, yet it’s so stylish that you can’t help but to awe at it. The story is very straightforward and simple. But that enables the director to just crank every detail up to 11.
The director is incredibly specific with everything in this film. The more I think about it, the less I can see wrong with Drive. I wouldn’t have done anything differently, and I don’t see how anything could be improved in any way. It’s unique, yet familiar; calm, yet chaotic; somber, yet beautiful. Also, Ryan Gosling is simply amazing.
When this movie came out, it immediately became my favorite film of the year. It maintained that spot until Drive came out. Well, for a while Drive was number 2, then I got the blu-ray for Drive and it moved to number 1. Until writing this, Hannastayed at the number 2 spot. I decided to re-watch it last minute, and I’m glad I did. To me, Hanna is this year’s Pulp Fiction, and Drive is Shawshank Redemption.
There’s something about Hanna that really captured me. It’s a basic plot or revenge, but it’s still so much more than that when you break it down. It’s sort of a dark fairy-tale about a girl coming into the world for the first time of her life. It’s got great action through out the film, but it’s a character driven story.
What really drives the movie is the performance of Saoirse Ronan, the unique direction of Joe Wright, the crazy editing style, and the incredible score by the Chemical Brothers. This crazy combination of unorthodox elements elevatesHanna above what it should have been. Any other actor, any other director, any other editor, any other score, and this movie just wouldn’t have been as good as it is. While Drive is a better film, Hanna’s uniqueness is what locked it into my top spot.